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Film Festival Round-Up: Toronto, Telluride, & Venice
Written by Sarah Osman
 
Galas, red carpets, award-winning films, oh my! The Toronto, Telluride, and Venice film festivals are all either going on (or have taken place) in the last few weeks, and dozens of fascinating films have emerged from each one. Be ready to see some of these films get nominated for Oscars -- the race for the little golden man is on! In the meantime, I present to you which films I’m excited to see and why:
 

TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL
 
Gravity
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney -- IN SPACE! Count me in. This unusual thriller was directed by the mastermind behind the third Harry Potter film, Alfonso Cuaron, who has never failed to ignite my imagination. The film follows two astronauts as they attempt to survive in the harshest environment of all: outer space! The 3D on this one looks fairly impressive too, especially considering it was done in post-production.
 
12 Years a Slave
The cast alone on this film has me intrigued -- Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, and Benedict Cumberbatch all star in this historical drama, based on a true story about a free man who was tricked and sold into slavery in 1841. I have to admit that I’m a sucker for real-life historical dramas, so simply the premise of 12 Years a Slave makes me want to see it. Oh, and did I mention that Michael Fassbender’s in it?
 
The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu)
If you have never seen one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, I encourage you to drop everything you are doing and go watch one. His latest work covers decades of time and focuses on a pre-WWII aeronautical engineer who becomes inspired by visits to a fantasy world in the clouds. Miyazaki’s films are not just beautiful, but they tell magnificent and poetic stories. I’m also intrigued by the tie-in to WWII. Grave of the Fireflies,another Japanese animated film, centers around Japan during WWII and may be the most powerful film I’ve ever seen. I’m curious to see just how powerful The Wind Rises will undoubtedly be.
 
 
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
 
Philomena
The premise of the film sounds heartbreaking, yet truly fascinating: A pregnant teenager in 1952 Ireland, Philomena’s baby is taken away from her and put up for adoption in America. For 50 years, she has unsuccessfully attempted to find her child. She has just about given up hope until a political journalist (Steve Coogan) finds her story interesting and decides to help her try to find her child. The great Judi Dench plays Philomena, so you know this is bound to be good. I’m also intrigued by the pairing of Dench and Coogan, so I’d like to see how that plays out.
 
Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien in human form on a journey through Scotland. I’m not making this up, this is actually the premise. Based off of a book by Michael Faber, it sounds so cuckoo that I really want to see this. Come on, who wouldn’t want to see Johansson as an alien in human form wandering around Scotland?
 
Ana Arabia
The fact that Ana Arabia was shot in one continuous 85-minute shot makes is enough to pique my interest, but the plot is what really intrigues me. The film follows a young journalist named Yeal who goes on a visit to a small community of outcasts -- Jews and Arabs -- who live together in pitiful shacks in Israel. Yeal is amazed to find that no clichés exist among the various residents, who tell her about their dreams, lives, loves, and disillusions. I am a fan of films that break down stereotypes, as well as though that simply tell basic human stories of love and friendship.
 
 
TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL
 
Nebraska
I may be a bit biased towards this one because I’m a huge Alexander Payne fan (The Descendants may be one of the greatest films ever made). His latest film, Nebraska, is a black & white road trip story that follows a grumpy father and his estranged son as they travel cross-country to claim their sweepstakes fortune. Critics are already clamoring for a Best Actor nod for Bruce Dern (as the grumpy father, obviously), which is always a promising sign. Honestly, I would be stunned if this wasn’t a great film; Payne has yet to fail.
 
Inside Llewyn Davis
Have the Cohen Brothers ever made a bad movie? I’m pretty sure that it’s not possible at this point. Their latest flick, Inside Llewyn Davis, is set in 1960s Greenwich Village and follows Oscar Issac as he attempts to break into the folk music scene. Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and John Goodman also star in the film. I’m betting we’ll get to hear some great music as well as witness some truly A-List acting in this “folk” tale.
 
The Missing Picture
Director Rithy Panh found a very creative way to tell the tale of his native Cambodia during the late-1970s: through hundreds of simple clay figures. The Missing Picture is a harrowing narrative that looks at a nightmarish Cambodia all through various dolls that stand in for the victims of Khmer Rouge’s atrocities. I’m personally intrigued that Panh would pick such an unusual way to tell his tale.
 

What films are YOU looking forward to seeing?
 
 
- Sarah Osman, YH Staff